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Heritage - Maritime

Saltburn's Smuggling Past...
The rugged and desolate coastline of Saltburn was the ideal place to carry out the illicit trade of Smuggling.

Smuggling in the area dates back to the 14th century but reached its peak in the 18th century, cargoes including brandy, geneva (gin), tobacco, tea, coffee, silk, playing cards, chocolate, snuff, linen and even sail booms and oars for boats. Such large profits could be made, ensuring the smuggling trade flourished!

In the dead of the night the smuggled goods were landed directly on to the beach. Armed men kept watch for the customs men and accomplices along the coast signalled if there was a hint of danger. If the coast was clear local cobles were launched to ferry the contraband to the shore whence it vanished overnight.

The 'King of the Smugglers' at Saltburn was John Andrew, the licensee of the Ship Inn. Together with Tom King from Kirkleatham, he owned a fast cutter called the Morgan Rattler and when the word went round the village that 'Andrew's cow had calved' helpers knew the Morgan Rattler lay off Saltburn with a cargo to unload. The gang used an underground passage to store the cargoes, the entrance being in the stables via a flagstone in the stall of a horse which kicked savagely when strangers went near.

The gentry and clergy helped distribute the goods and Andrew became a gentleman on the vast profits. He was finally caught, however and fined £100,000. As he was unable to pay, he was imprisoned in York Castle, but his influence meant that after two years he was released.

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